Kathy Kamp believes in the power of home ownership and its ability to help transform beleaguered neighborhoods.
Kamp is the executive director of the Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development, a statewide nonprofit. The organization is building two homes and renovating a third in Janesville’s central city.
The ongoing projects continue a relationship between the nonprofit and the city that began in 2008.
That’s when Janesville received neighborhood stabilization money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Janesville and the Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development worked together to renovate foreclosed homes and get them back on the real estate market, city Housing Services Director Kelly Bedessem said.
The relationship has continued ever since, and it now uses different federal funding sources—community development block grant and HOME funds—to do similar projects.
When the city receives foreclosed properties from Rock County, the nonprofit evaluates them to see if they are worth fixing. Some are torn down and replaced with a new structure if their foundations are damaged.
Others are extensively renovated and made available for sale, Bedessem said.
Typically, the homes are sold to low- or moderate-income people as dictated by federal program requirements, she said.
Kamp said Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development isn’t competing with other potential home buyers. The nonprofit purchases houses that are in such disrepair they wouldn’t be approved for home insurance or a mortgage.
“We choose houses, I don’t want to say they’re the worst house on the block,” she said, “but they have good foundations, good bones but aren’t habitable at the time we purchase them.
“Our whole goal is to create home ownership. We think that’s how you create wealth and build neighborhoods. That’s how you provide housing stability to families.”
Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development has worked with 22 properties in Janesville, and all are located in either the Fourth Ward or Look West neighborhoods. Fourteen homes have been constructed or rehabbed with three more nearing completion.
The appraised value of the 14 finished properties collectively increased by $1 million after rehabilitation or new construction, according to documents provided by Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development.
Besides the homes, the nonprofit also has renovated five two-unit, vacant rental properties.
The city occasionally does its own rehabilitation projects. But it’s usually more feasible to work with Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development, especially on houses that need more extensive work, Bedessem said.
“This is what they do … affordable housing throughout the state,” she said. “They’re experts in it. They have the capacity to do it.”
Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development often hops between Wisconsin communities, but Janesville is one of the few that has remained a consistent partner. That’s because the city does not have a nonprofit solely dedicated to home development, Kamp said.
Their work frequently has a residual effect in Janesville, motivating neighbors to fix their homes or take better care of their lawns. Sometimes the neighbors approach the on-site contractors for an informal consultation, she said.
This additional long-term commitment to a neighborhood, which often starts with home ownership, gives the area added stability, she said.
“There’s lots of data that shows people who own their homes are able to accumulate wealth more quickly than people who rent,” Kamp said. “For lower-income families, to help them accumulate wealth, it gives them the opportunity to improve their financial well-being.”